One of themes going around the interwebs these days is this article: The dirt on organic. It is the reflections of someone who started organic churches but ended up going back to being a pastor in a regular church. Some of his points are:
- The project wasn’t a smashing success because it didn’t continually multiply disciples and churches
- It is impossible for someone to to lead a house church without getting paid
- Smaller churches are often a bigger mess
- Outreach can get ahead of leadership development, scaling back out reach doesn’t seem organic
Neil Cole has responded here.
I have a few thoughts myself.
Success in church life, even organic church life, isn’t the continual reproduction of new churches. The call is to make disciples. There will be an ebb and flow to this. Sometimes you are spending a lot of your resources on binding the wounded or equipping the immature and less on finding more people to do the same thing with. The idol of organizational success leads us to think that we are successful when we have lots of numbers to talk about. Our first church in the SeedLife network went from 5 to around 20 in the first year, but has grown much slower since. The reason? We had all we could handle at the time. I’ve needed time to learn and grow as a leader. As things grow we have to figure out how to do things with more people involved.
I’m not a big fan of the pie in the sky rapid church multiplication goal. It is too narrow and it isn’t consistent with even the best examples of sustainable church growth. The early church and the church in China probably grew about 10% a year.
Real ministry happens one person at a time, because we don’t have the capacity to love and deeply invest in 10 new people a year. What really matters is God and His kids. If have a group of 20 people and 5 of them are in real rough shape you have an opportunity to make a real difference. If you skip over these people to find more you are skipping love and discipleship for organization success.
It is possible to lead a church a not get paid if you don’t overwhelm yourself with too many people or less effective complicated mediums of ministry.
I doubt smaller churches aren’t a bigger mess, they are often safe enough for people to let their mess show. I must admit I am surprised at how broken church people can be and how much we are tempted to cover up that brokenness for the sake of appearances.